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Turns Out Playing In Milwaukee Wasn't All That Fun

Boston Celtics v Milwaukee Bucks - Game Four

If there’s one thing we as Celtics fans should have known heading into the playoffs, it’s that much like their regular season, nothing is going to come easy. If the Celtics are faced with a situation that will make life easier on themselves, they will almost always choose whatever path that not only makes it tougher on them, but tougher on us as fans. Owners of a 2-0 lead heading into MIL, they were in a great position. While a sweep was never a realistic option, a 3-1 advantage certainly was. When they got blown out in Game 2 I was OK with it, that was just a classic situation of a team being pumped to finally be at home. Game 3 is the one that mattered in my opinion. So seeing as how the Celts lost it in dick kicking fashion, I think it’s OK to be a little frustrated this morning. The cliche saying that a series doesn’t really start until a team loses at home is true, but now things become 10x more pressure filled. Now you have to win 2 out of the next 3 against a team that basically has more talent available. This is most certainly NOT the easiest path possible.

And despite the loss there are things to build on of course, I mean it’s not as if they got their dick kicked in both games. Well they did for a portion of Game 4, but again in typical Celtics fashion they came all the way back just to blow it at the end. I actually don’t know what’s worse now that I think about it. Anyway, this series has as long way to go but before we can officially move on to Game 5, we need to talk about Game 4.

The Good

– Remember last year against the Cavs when the Celtics were getting embarrassed? Remember how there was one bright spot in that series and it was that Jaylen actually looked like he was playoff ready? Well if that was true last year when he didn’t really do much, it is DEFINITELY true this year

The Celtics get blown out if not for Jaylen and his 34/8 on 13-24 (5-8) performance. To put it simply, Jaylen was incredible. Not only did he play a team high 41 minutes and take a team high 24 shots, but the confidence he played with still has me like 3/4 chubbed. So far this playoffs Jaylen is up to 23.8/5.3/1.8 with 51/46% splits and 3.3 3PM a night. Those are big boy numbers for a kid who is getting his first real playoff run. Not only did he have the best Ortg and Drtg of any starter yesterday, but opponents were also just 2-9 against him. Khris Middleton, who has been torching everyone on this roster, was just 2-5. It was Jaylen who also led the team in deflections (6), contested threes (7), and he was second in total contests with 10. This was about as complete a performance as you could possibly have, and one that makes me very excited for the rest of this series. Jaylen is locked in and playing his best basketball of the season at a time when the Celts desperately needed him.

– As I predict we’ll be doing for years to come, you can’t mention Jaylen without his partner in crime Jayson Tatum.

Outside of his subpar Game 2, Tatum has been great in his first career playoffs. Yesterday his 21 points on 7-16 shooting was much needed, including his late clutch fourth quarter play, something that shouldn’t surprise anyone if you watched this team play this season, Tatum much like Brown is blossoming right in front of our eyes.

His 14.5/6.3/2.5 line this playoffs is pretty much in line with what he did during the year, and while his 40/30% splits are a little low, it is worth mentioning that in three of the four games he’s lived over 43% from the floor. That poor Game 2 is what really killed his averages, but that’s OK. What I care about is that Jayson is not afraid of the big moment, especially in a high pressure road game against a team like MIL. Together he and Brown were the offense for the Celts in the second half, where Tatum finished with 18 points on 6-11 and Jaylen 19 points on 6-11. From Tatum’s perspective, he had a nice balance of an inside/outside game. He sort of struggled at the rim, but nothing he did felt forced which I liked. No matter what happens in this playoffs, the experience that Jaylen and Jayson are getting is going to help them so much in their development I can’t stress that enough. They are not playing like rookies/second year players and that I think we can all agree is a pleasant surprise.

– Despite getting sent 6 feet under by Giannis, Al Horford still had a strong game. He finished with 13/9/4 on 4-8 shooting in his 36 minutes

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and honestly it was a little annoying that at times when the Celtics couldn’t score to save their lives, that they didn’t go more to Al since he was proving to be the only consistent scoring option early. In my opinion, based on how he’s been shooting this series, 8 FGA is way too low.

I liked that we saw Point Al, and while Brad sort of played it off post game like it was mostly random and not really an “adjustment”, I don’t think they should treat it as such. We saw it be really effective against MIL, and it would not surprise me if we saw it more frequently in Game 5. Horford has been a bit of a matchup nightmare for MIL so far, and I’m all for dragging their length as far away from the basket as possible. If that means Al has to run the show and initiate the offense, I can’t imagine anyone would have a problem with that given how our guard play has been recently. The energy from Al was also there yesterday, leading the team in loose ball recoveries and contested shots. Safe to say they are going to need a huge effort from Al in Game 5, but based on everything we’ve seen this series I fully expect to get it.

– Aren’t things so much better when the Celtics actually show up? When their offense doesn’t look like the early game of your weekend Biddy Basketball league that you ref where two teams of 10 year olds just run around without dribbling and miss every shot they take? The second half of this game from an offensive standpoint was really night and day. See for yourself.

First half:

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Second half:

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Crazy what can happen when you actually finish around the basket! Who knew that making your layups could get you back into a game? Over the final 24 minutes not only did the Celts score 67 points, but they did it with 52/42% splits and just 2 TOs. If you’re looking for some good spin heading into Game 5, that’s it. They showed they can adjust and actually look like a competent basketball team against this MIL defense. And even if this level of play isn’t sustainable, at least we know they are capable of it. I don’t care who is missing from a talent perspective, this team has shown us they can not play like assholes when they want to.

To come back from 20 points in the third quarter is no joke, especially in the playoffs in a hostile environment. That showed the type of mental toughness this team has. While I would have loved for them to not get down by 20 in the first place, it was comforting to know that even in the playoffs, no deficit is too much for this team. The only concern is they used up all their energy just to lose, and will come out flat in Game 5. We’ll worry about that later.

– Always nice to see the Celts win the rebounding battle 43-36, dominate second chance points once again, only turn it over 8 times, and get their assist% back up to a respectable level with 22 assists on 36 baskets. Those are the winning areas and if they do that consistently they should be fine.

The Bad

– The Celtics defense has a Bucks problem. I think we can all admit that. For a team who’s defense made life so hard on opponents all year, it could not be more of the opposite for this Bucks team. Another bgame they finished over 50%, with 52/43.5% splits and just 9 TOs. As good as the Celtics were offensively in the second half, MIL shot the ball even better. Over the final 24 minutes they had 57/60% splits, and in the final fourth quarter those numbers were even better at 62.5/80% splits. I’m sorry but this is unacceptable defense.

Through four games they have not figured out how to slow down Giannis/Middleton, two guys that went 20-34 and combined for 50 of the 104 for MIL. Khris Middleton has especially killed them, he’s shooting a ridiculous 62% from deep after shooting 35% all season. This isn’t a case where MIL has just shot this well at home either. Here is the breakdown so far this series

Game 1: 48/38%

Game 2: 59.7/41.2%

Game 3: 57/48.5%

Game 4: 52.1/43.5%

To be honest, the Celts are lucky this series is tied based on how the Bucks have shot the ball. In Game 4, the Celts contested just 74% of MILs shots, and that would be fine until you look at how some of the Bucks have responded to wide open looks this series. For example, Middleton is shooting 70% on wide open looks, Giannis 60%, and Thon Maker 60%. Who are the three most impactful Bucks so far? Those guys.

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– Nobody probably wants to get out of MIL faster than Terry Rozier. After all us the internet, myself included, was putting Terry in the HOF after his first two games of this series, he could not have fallen back down to earth harder. Just 3-12 yesterday, Rozier went 5-19 with 6 TOs in MIL, and it’s not all that surprising that in the games he struggled, the team struggled. The problem with Rozier yesterday to be was mostly his shot selection. He took 12 FGA in this game and 10 of them were from behind the arc. Even while some were wide open, Terry made just 1 of his 4 wide open attempts. It didn’t make it any better that he was basically a non factor on the defensive end, and you could tell Brogdon knew it. Any time he got the ball it always seemed like he went right at Rozier, who may as well not even tried as he put up no resistance whatsoever.

Perhaps it was just a bad two games, but nothing made it more clear how much this team misses Smart than these last two outings.

– For the Celtics to win this series one thing has to happen. Marcus Morris needs to match the production of Jabari Parker. This is something that did not happen over these last two games, in fact the exact opposite happened. Parker came to life and Morris, after his 4-14 day, has been nowhere to be found. He was a second worst -10 in his 26 minutes, and that really set the tone for the entire Celts bench.

– What bench? Fair question. As a group the Celts combined to shoot just 5-21 from the field, and you could argue that it was the second unit that really put the nail in the coffin for the Celts. Outside of Semi and his +4, no other Celtics second player finished better than -8, and Larkin and Morris were especially brutal. When you compare this to the MIL bench, that put up 31 points on 10-21 shooting including 5 3PM, there’s your ballgame right there. I know role players tend to play better at home, but the Celts reserves need to be much better moving forward if they want to win this series. Period.

The Ugly

– What the fuck was this

I suppose it stings a little bit that the Celts lost by 2 and gave up 4 points in 1.6 seconds to end the first quarter because they were stupid. I get what Morris was thinking, but I also want to yell at him because at that point what good is it to save the time it takes for Terry to what, throw a halfcourt lob? Just inbounds the ball like normal and get to the second quarter. Instead, you fired up the MIL crowd and shot yourself in the foot. The fact that this was Delly’s only basket only made things worse.

– And honestly, the mental composure of the Celtics was a pretty big deal in this game. Between that play, the Morris tech, the complaining about no calls, it was almost as if the Celts had never played a road playoff game before. People talk all the time about how smart the Celtics play, and that’s why they are able to compete despite missing talent. Well we learned last night that you can’t take even one possession off and be stupid, because when you do, shit like this happens and the Basketball Gods make you pay for it with a 1 possession loss. Unacceptable.

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– Sure it also wasn’t great that the Celts missed 5 FTs in a 2 point loss, all coming from their good FT shooters. I don’t need you to be perfect, I just need you to make your damn FTs.

– I think fans of both teams can agree, the officiating in this series has been dogshit for both sides. I don’t know how the refs missed Jayson Tatum clearly grabbing Khris Middleton’s jersey, and I also don’t know how they don’t call this play a foul on Jaylen at the games biggest moment.

As I said yesterday, the Celtics were to blame for how this game ended. They lost it due to their own decision making, not because of the officials. Even if that Jaylen play ultimately helped decide the game, even after the TO (foul), Semi still fucked up close out on Brogdon. Then on the next possession it’s on the Celtics for not boxing out Giannis, not the officials. What sucks is that the Middleton play wasn’t in the bonus, and the Jaylen play puts him at the line with a chance to get the lead to 4. Even if he only makes one, the Celts then up 3 with 30ish seconds left can completely control the game from the foul line.

Would it shock me if today we see the NBA admit that was really a foul on Middleton? No. But at the same time Jaylen put himself in that position, and as Celts fans we are really just upset because of how it turned out. Had Jaylen dunked on someone we all would have loved it.

– Which brings us to the last play

If you listened to Brad talk about this play postgame he explained that Terry was the first option but Brogdon did a good job of rotating. Marcus Morris was like the 3rd option, and Stevens had no problem with giving him a one on one opportunity with the game on the line. That’s all fine and good, but to me that says that Jaylen and Tatum were not the primary options, which was confusing considering they had been unconscious the entire half. To be honest it wasn’t that bad a look, it’s just a make or miss league.

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So we turn the page now to an all important Game 5. Did you know the winner of Game 5 goes on to win the series 86% of the time? I’d say that makes tomorrow’s game fairly important. I don’t know about you, but I will be freaking out for the next two days, hoping that just once, the Celtics can make life easier on themselves. They had their chance in MIL and blew it, but it’s time to move on.

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